ILLEGAL drugs coming from a maximum security prison in Metro Manila still find their way to other parts of the country, said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following the arrest of four persons in a raid in Iligan City.
Juvenal Azurin, PDEA regional director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm), said the half a kilogram of suspected shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) confiscated by anti-narcotics agents during an operation in Iligan City early Wednesday morning, September 19, came from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
The illegal substance was seized from suspected drug personalities belonging to a circle dubbed by PDEA as the “Iwaram Drug Group.”
Arrested were Lanao del Sur Board Member Hussien Magandia, his wife Norhaimah, their son Aktar, and the couple’s son-in-law Marawi City Councilor Amienquialed Dimal.
Aktra was a former barangay chairman of Maguing Proper in Maguing town, Lanao del Sur.
READ: Lanao board member, 3 others nabbed; P3.4-M shabu seized
A combined team of PDEA agents from Armm, Northern Mindanao, and the agency’s Special Enforcement Service from Manila conducted the raid.
Confiscated from the suspects were half a kilo of suspected shabu worth P3.4 million, electronic gadgets, various documents, bank records, a Smith and Wesson .38 caliber pistol, several live bullets, and rolls of aluminum foil.
Azurin did not name the person responsible for supplying the illegal drugs to the suspects, but said the supplier is a high-level inmate.
From Bilibid, the illegal substance is transported by land to Lanao del Sur, he added.
“So far, they are the biggest narco-politicians [we have] arrested,” said PDEA-Armm Director Juvenal Azurin during the press conference at the PDEA-Northern Mindanao office Wednesday afternoon.
Azurin said the arrested officials were not on President Rodrigo Duterte’s original drug matrix, since it took PDEA about a year to verify the suspects’ involvement in the illegal drug trade.
“We were very careful in conducting the validation considering the fact that these personalities are prominent,” he said, adding they spent several months conducting validation, surveillance and intelligence gathering before carrying out the search operation.
Azurin also confirmed that Norhaimah is the first cousin of Johaira “Marimar” Macabuat, the former mayor of Maguing town in Lanao del Sur and suspected drug queen who was on PDEA-Northern Mindanao’s watch list.
He said the suspects, considered by PDEA as distributors, used to operate in Lanao del Sur and some parts of Lanao del Norte prior to their arrest.
From these provinces, they distributed the illegal substance to a network of runners and pushers who sell the shabu to other areas in Mindanao.
The suspects also have a few legitimate businesses based in Iligan City -- a carwash, rice mill, and a rice trading -- which they use as front, so they will not be suspected of dealing in illegal drugs, said Azurin.
He said the PDEA will also look into the notebooks and bank documents seized from the suspects and use these for its financial investigation.
The suspects were detained at the PDEA-Northern Mindanao detention cell awaiting the filing of formal charges. They refused to give a statement to the media. (SunStar Cagayan de Oro)